"Closing Our Browsers" (on the impending death of browsing)

Discussion in 'The Watering Hole' started by Luke, Dec 29, 2014.

  1. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    A customer of mine brought in an article he read in the newspaper a few weeks back. While the story is specificly about bookstores, it clearly extends to my business of record stores (and actually further to physical stores that sell ANYTHING). I thought about sharing it after reading Don's New Year's resolution to buy more records from his local shop (something I can definitely get behind). While I am not a bibliophile I still occasionally shop at book stores, I never buy books online......mostly because I am not looking for a specific book. I like to browse and see what's available.

    I can't imagine buying a shirt or a pair of jeans without looking through a rack of clothes and holding it up to see how it looks or trying it on, but at the rate shopping malls are folding, eventually we may have no choice.

    Occasionally I'll have a customer come in looking for a specific record.....they'll go to the right genre, look in the right spot of the alphabet and if I don't have it, they'll just leave. That is "buying" vs. "browsing" or "shopping". For some things, "buying" is fine. I need a gallon of milk, I go to the corner store and buy the gallon of milk and leave. But when I want a new book or some new tunes, I want to go "shopping". Have you ever tried "browsing" Amazon? You can't. Not in any real, pleasurable way. If you don't want to see the places you like to browse being closed, I suggest we all close our internet "browsers" a little more often.

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  2. Chris2500dk

    Chris2500dk Top Veteran

    Dec 22, 2011
    Copenhagen, Denmark
    I try to shop locally when I can, but besides clothes/shoes (which I wouldn't buy online) and groceries I tend to end up shopping online.

    It's not that I don't want to support the local shops, it just that if I find a camera or other item I want the chances the local shop is carrying it is basicly nil, and even if they might order it for me the price would then be significantly higher than shopping online and since they ordered it specifically for me I would have to buy it before the order was put.
    Add to that not having to stand in line and not having to deal with sales people who only know which item they're supposed to push me into buying rather than actually knowing something about the technology, and it's really a lot more appealing to shop online.

    I do sometimes drive to an "electronics megastore" where you can fondle the items to your heart's content, but even there the selection is still rather limited and most of the items are either plastic mock-ups or just left without batteries or power. Besides that's not really what I consider a local store :smile:

    Of course it's a shame that local shops are dying out, but a lot of them are doing so because they fail to adapt to new consumer habits. And fortunately there are exceptions, where you get a really good store with skilled staff who knows what they're dealing with and enjoys their work, but it's rare to come across those.
  3. demiro

    demiro Serious Compacts For Life

    Dec 15, 2011
    I think part of the attraction with Amazon is the ability to browse through what seems like the entire catalogue of existing music and/or books, with song clips, book excerpts, and user reviews to boot.
  4. Isoterica

    Isoterica Hall of Famer

    Dec 6, 2011
    I like to touch, whether it's clothing, electronics, books, simply smelling a candle or a fresh loaf of bread.. I only shop online when what I am looking for isn't accessible to me (like certain photography brands), and then I am shopping for the best price so that may extend to a few sights in this search. It is rare that I browse but will admit to getting lost, occasionally, on clothing/shoe sights (store didn't have my size in stock but look.. this online store does AND.. look at these!!!). I'm not so comfortable with buying clothing/shoes online because as everyone knows, sizes vary and you never know what you'll get but if they have free shipping or at the very least free return, sometimes I consider it, again when I can't find something locally. I won't buy something else just because I can't find the thing that I want. I do agree though, there is going out to buy, and then there is the browse.. and sadly, book and record stores are dwindling (particularly around here)-- and digital doesn't cut it for me. I try to visit boutique shops, little artisan shops etc, but if they are too expensive, no matter how much I want to support their success, I can't justify paying double. I liken that to going to the Wisconsin Dells (or how it was years ago, haven't been there for some time)..you buy some moccasins in a little shop, you love them, and then two shops down you see them 50% cheaper and you feel ripped off and sour on it all. As an end note I did get lost on Amazon when looking for my textbooks. You can get lost in books or music because they do suggest other titles, and I went on this archaeological exploration that was fantastic, but haven't ordered anything, yet!
  5. Richard

    Richard Top Veteran

    Feb 1, 2013
    Marlow, UK
    I agree. My problem with Amazon is that it's always been too damn easy for me to shop there. These days it's generally the cheapest, most convenient and risk-free place for me to order pretty much anything online except groceries. Even though I feel I should support local shops, and even though my conscience pricks me about some of Amazons business practises, I keep going back. It's a hard habit to break.

  6. grillec

    grillec Veteran

    Jan 16, 2014
    Especially in technical oriented shops the problem is the specialization in mainstream product lines. For example photography - the shop keeper would like to sell brands he supported. If I want a greater variety I have to drive a longer way to inner-city at rush hour and have to search for a free parking area. And I wouldn't enjoy the opportunity to "shopping" in lenses and cameras I don't use.
    On internet sites I could evaluate the pro and cons at a range of products. If I've decided for one the online order is the shortest phase in this process. The product could be fetched on a parcel-station at any time after delivery (e.g. on the way home).
    The only time I'd enjoyed the shopping process itself was at small Pen&Paper-Roleplay-shops one and a half decade ago. They had a special flair of undiscovered treasures between old used books, junk and new publications in narrow placed bookshelves. These were small shops managed by fans for fans. This had changed, too, or I've changed myself not enough.
  7. WoodWorks

    WoodWorks Regular

    Dec 21, 2014
    I live in rural southern Oregon. There are no camera stores here. We have one decent computer store. Our local clothing stores have very limited selection. There is very little of anything available here other than groceries, and even some of that I have to order online. Good luck finding real Bomba rice for paella here, for instance. So if I want something specific, Amazon and their ilk are almost unavoidable. Much as I would like to patronize local merchants, most of the time I simply can't.
  8. christilou

    christilou Legend

    Jul 13, 2010
    Sunny Frimley
    I've been deleting endless Amazon emails linking me to their "sale" where it's helpfully chosen all kinds of garbage I might like..... nothing would induce me to "browse" Amazon!
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  9. stillshunter

    stillshunter Super Moderator Emeritus

    Nov 5, 2010
    Down Under
    Luke, mate, this is exactly what I needed to read right now. Thank you. In the vein of a book I started - but didn't finish ironically enough - called "The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains" by Nicholas Carr

    We are lucky to be of a generation that remembers the pure joy of browsing. I fondly recall the feeling of my youth, with no money for 13 days a fortnight when cheque day came I spent the good part of that day scouring local secondhand bookstores, (Goulds or Gleebooks mainly for any Sydney-siders if the stores still exist 20 years on), and allow myself to buy just one book. I'd look forward to reading that book during the fortnight, though it was normally digested by the end of week one. I built quite the library during that time and developed very eclectic tastes. Every week was a new adventure and my thoughts during the fortnight would often see me moving away from books I agonised over only 14 days earlier. I've lost a little of that romance. So thanks Luke mate! And kudos for keeping a little of that dream alive for music browsers :clap2:
  10. Itchybiscuit

    Itchybiscuit Regular

    Dec 26, 2014
    Glasgow, Scotland
    You'd be surprised at the numbers of people who don't have a computer or an internet connection.

    The local shops here in Glasgow are all thriving but the big stores (Tesco/Asda(Walmart)/Currys/etc) are certainly feeling the pinch. Any time you have a specialist shop, no matter what it sells, it seems to fare better because of a loyal following. My local butcher or greengrocer won't be closing because the supermarkets sell cheaper meat and veg. Even my local charity shop (Magpie's Eye) sells better quality furniture at a fraction of the price of Ikea.

    In essence, it's not all bad for shops. It simply depends on how homogeneous those shops are. Well, that's my opinion... :wink:
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  11. dalethorn

    dalethorn Guest

    If any of the things I buy online were available locally, I'd get them locally, with very few exceptions. Take cameras for example. When I bought my first Leicas from Metzger Photo in Akron Ohio, Metzger's was as big and well-stocked as Samy's in Los Angeles. But Metzger disappeared, partly because most of the money in that town left with the industries. If I were in New York or L.A. now I'd be in 7th heaven for camera shopping, but I'm not, so Internet is it.
  12. Petach

    Petach Hall of Famer

    Oct 22, 2011
    UK, Essex
    Peter Tachauer
    I am old enough to remember a Sainsbury's Grocery Store where I lived as a young boy. My mum would write a list in pencil on a scrap of paper and send me to get the 1/4lb of Typhoo Tea, 1/2lb cheddar, 4 slices of ham etc. I would go into the store and actually HAND my list to what seemed an ancient old man wearing a white apron with a single button at the triangular shaped top. He would get everything FOR me and hand it to me in a paper carrier bag. I'd give him 1s/6d (and get change).

    A misty eyed me regrets its passing and being replaced by a multi billion pound behemoth of a super market empire.....row upon row of cashiers taking your cash or card for foods out of season but transported thousands of miles for our convenience. But, practical me, me in a rush, me in a hurry to be 4 seconds quicker doing whatever a retired person does knows it would never last.

    Change becomes the norm. Like grammar.

    It is those who live on the "cusp" of change that fear it the most I think. My kids know nothing different to the supermarket, but they have seen the change in how supermarkets now deliver to you rather than you going to them.

    Like life, the old adage is that you can splash in the pool as much as you like, but when you get out no one knows you were there. Shops will go (as they do already) to be replaced by whatever we find convenient and flock to.

    I like to shop, I like to feel the merchandise......I like to chat....laugh and feel that I am supporting my local brothers and sisters. I loathe and detest huge corporations that move into a high street...into a market that is already catered for by Steve in the coffee bar, Syd in the fishmongers etc But it simply becomes the norm eventually. We mourn the passing of a way of life we were comfortable with.....whilst the next generation cannot imagine how we lived like that.

    That is the best explanation I can come up with.
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  13. Lightmancer

    Lightmancer Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Aug 13, 2011
    Sunny Frimley
    Bill Palmer
    I have seen the future of retail and it's Apps like Powatag. Don't laugh - I know a number of retailers are actively considering it's ilk. The objective seems to be to leach from the retail experience any semblance of human interaction, or indeed, humanity. Please understand that I am no luddite but I have a visceral dislike of such "advances". I detest "self-service" checkouts - if encouraged by the few remaining staff to use them I politely refuse whilst pointing out that I would rather still see them in a job next year... This is usually greeted with a smile and the opening of a manual till. It has more than once been applauded by others in the queue behind me. If I am forced to self-serve I put down my goods and leave. It's not the technology I object to, you see, but the business model. I am not benefiting myself, but the retailer. If they automatically discounted my purchases every time I self-served - as is certainly possible - I would do it. Of course I shop online - I have Amazon Prime membership - but online is for convenience not experiential pleasure.

    In the supermarket I have learned that the fastest checkout is actually the one staffed by someone middle-aged... They start the carrier bags for you, they know where the bar code is on each item and they do not need to call a supervisor for alcohol.

    Retail does need to change, and it is. There are few shops in the "crowded middle" that can and will survive without an online presence . "Multi-channel" is the name of the game. But specialism is also a survival technique, particularly for "personal retail" services such as bespoke suiting, fresh food and wines, antiques and collectibles, etc - things you want to see, hear, touch, taste and smell before purchase.
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  14. I love the speed of ordering/access to almost any item that you can buy that the internet provides.

    However, for certain items, you just have to try out.

    Companies like Best Buy are trying hard to remain in business. They have the policy that any add from a regular online retailer they will match, (sorry no EBay match).
  15. stillshunter

    stillshunter Super Moderator Emeritus

    Nov 5, 2010
    Down Under
    But how about the excitement of stumbling on something you would never have otherwise discovered? A purchase based solely on a cool cover, an interesting blurb on the back, a hunch, etc. I concede convenience, but serendipity seems to elude the interwebs shopping experience.
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  16. snkenai

    snkenai All-Pro

    Oct 5, 2010
    kenai, AK
    Stephen Noel
    Growing up in rural, hill country of central KY, where the county seat, had one stop light and 1920 souls. (I think it may have lost a few since then) The local country general stores, were smaller than the average 3 bd house, and tried to carry something for everyone. So, selection was severely limited. If you wanted more, there were the catalog stores. Sears, Wards, Spiegals, etc, with the 2" thick catalogs, that we spent the long winter hours dreaming over things, that we were never going to get. When the new (yearly) one came out, the old one went to the little cabin at the end of the path, with seating for one or two.

    I left when I was 16, and returned occasionally for a while, but didn't stay long. But, about 5 years ago we retired back to the County next door, where the largest town has 10-12,000 souls, and a few more lights, but, we still have to mail order many things, that we just cannot get here, at any price. Or drive 60-100 miles and hope to find it, but, be told, " we can have it for you in a day or two"!

    So, the more things change, the more they don't. .....Oh, gotta' go check my eBay watch list. Might get lucky! :biggrin:
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  17. That's how I stumbled into the original NEX-3. A store display at Target. Been hooked ever since.

    Two of my previous upgrades were from EBay, with my last one this month from Best Buy.
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  18. ajramirez

    ajramirez Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Jul 9, 2010
    Caguas, Puerto Rico

    If we had a record store such as yours locally, I would certainly spend some time in it. Unfortunately, we don't. Our choices at this point are Specs, Best Buy, or WalMart, none of which carry most of the music I listen to, nor provide a pleasant browsing experience.

    Fortunately, we still have locally owned and run book stores which I enjoy visiting. They are actually stronger now, since Borders closed its doors a few years ago.

    Other than that, I generally hate shopping. So, everything else either gets bought on the internet, or thoroughly researched beforehand, so that I can go in and out of the store as quickly and painlessly as possible.


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  19. drd1135

    drd1135 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Jul 13, 2011
    Lexington, Virginia
    I find that I check out Etsy more and more. It's a global market but consisting of local, one of a kind shops. I'm not sure how much these shops need to give to the website itself.
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  20. donlaw

    donlaw All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Sep 14, 2012
    Luke thank you for bringing this discussion up. There are many reasons to shop online; such as better selection, prices, and easy return policies. I fully understand that and have done plenty of it. And since I usually buy used camera equipment I will continue to get that online.
    But my New Years resolution Luke referred to is based specifically upon my long standing hobby of collecting music. Although I left it for a number of years, I have recently had a renewed interest in vinyl albums. I remember so well the thrill of browsing at Peaches record store in Dallas. Many times with a group of like minded friends, we would choose carefully based upon artists and artwork often choosing something with no clear idea how it might sound. Here in Houston there is a place called Cactus Music where you can still have that experience. And today's vinyl is exceptional. Back in vinyl's heyday, mass produced LPs were often defective. Yet even those had the art work, and many times a lyric sheet. Today's vinyl is a step up, heavy at 180g often with a CD or download included. So I intend to buy music in the vinyl format where there are knowledgable and helpful people working.
    Beyond that there is only one local coffee shop that has survived the Starbucks chain, we went there yesterday and it was a wonderful experience. Buying local, if that is an option for you, is a good thing. Support your local merchants.
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